A group youths (with some help from adults) in Northwest Philadelphia recently reached out with a message for Pope Francis in advance of his likely visit to the city for the World Meeting of Families in Sept. 2015: Please stop by Germantown to say hi.
During Aug. 10 masses at St. Vincent DePaul Church on Price Street in Germantown, Father Sy Paterka asked youthful parishioners and DePaul Catholic School students to write letters inviting the Pope to visit both the church and the K-8 school.
So, that’s exactly what they did with Maria Beatty, the parish’s new director of religious education.
Beatty explained that the idea was drawn from the Jesuit and Vincentian roots of Paterka, other teachers and the church’s namesake saint.
“We’re big fans of the Jesuit’s great intellectual history and rigorous commitment to charity, its desire to help the poor,” Beatty said. “Wherever he goes, places like Rio and Eastern Europe, Pope Francis has reached out to the poor, so we agreed that we should ask him to come see the poor if he’s in Philly.”
Making it seem fated to the contingent was the fact that the last day of the World Meeting of Families (Sept. 27) is also the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul.
“Come to St. Vincent’s Parish on the Feast Day!” said Beatty, noting that parish youths still remember Barack Obama visiting the neighborhood in 2008 and Mayor Michael Nutter’s visit to the school four years later. “We got really excited about that idea, and the children got behind it too.”
In all, about 15 children and a few parents wrote letters in an effort that will continue today before the invitations are sent off to the Vatican.
The invites didn’t all stick exactly to script, though.
“One said, ‘Please pray for me because I’m scared about school starting’ and there were crayons involved too, with pictures of Rita’s Water Ice and soft pretzels,” she said. “They were really cute.”